Overlap in Parent and Teacher Reports of Externalizing and Problem Behaviors in School-Age Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Objectives: To assess agreement between parent and teacher reports of children’s adaptive and problem behaviors in the home and school settings.
Methods: 23 participants with ASD between the ages of 7 and 12 (M = 10.06 years, SD = 1.61), were enrolled in a study of the Resilience Builder Program®, a 14-week, manualized, group intervention for children with social competence deficits (RBP; Alvord, Zucker, & Grados, 2011) at a large, private practice. Prior to treatment, parents and teachers completed the BASC-2 to evaluate children’s adaptive and problem behaviors in community and home settings. Bivariate correlations between all BASC-2 parent and teacher rated subscales were analyzed using SPSS, after which Bonferroni’s correction was applied.
Results: There were statistically significant positive correlations between parent and teacher ratings of primarily externalizing behaviors including aggression (r = .65, p = .001) and externalizing problems (r = .64, p = .001). There was a lack of significant correlations between all other BASC-2 parent and teacher rated subscale scores, including measures of anxiety, depression, and overall internalizing problems.
Conclusions: The results suggest a strong agreement between parent and teacher assessment of externalizing behaviors, but a disconnect between parent and teacher’s abilities to report similar levels of internalizing behaviors. Significant agreement on behavioral functioning may reflect the fact that this is easier to observe and therefore characterize. Interestingly, it also suggests that despite differences in the environment in which children are being assessed (i.e., home vs. school), youth with ASD are perhaps displaying comparable levels of behavioral difficulties. In contrast, the disagreement between parents and teachers on affective functioning may reflect the difficulty in observing these internalized deficits, or it is possible that children are exhibiting varying degrees of these problems depending on the setting. Data from the current study suggest that more targeted, objective measures may be needed to assess internalizing deficits that occur in the home vs. school settings. Finally, the results may also suggest that communication between parents and teachers is critical to ensure comprehensive awareness of mood related deficits, which may differ in presentation based on setting.